This eight-day getaway takes you on a circular journey through the highlights of central and southern Sri Lanka. Setting out from the west coast beach town of Negombo, you'll travel deep into the country's cultural heart—exploring the ancient fortress of Sigiriya, the cave temples of Dambulla, and the palaces and relics of Kandy along the way. After a refreshing trip through the lush mountains and tea estates of Ella, head back to the coast to wind down in the beach paradise of Unawatuna.


  • Climb 1,200 steps to the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya
  • Explore the peaceful Sri Lankan countryside by bike and boat
  • Admire the grand temples and shrines of Kandy's Royal Palace
  • Tour a working tea estate in the lush mountains around Ella
  • Unwind and recharge on the palm-fringed beaches of Unawatuna

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Negombo Negombo
Day 2 Transfer to Sigiriya, Visit Sigiriya Rock Fortress Sigiriya
Day 3 Explore Pidurangala, Rural Village Trail in Habarana Sigiriya
Day 4 Transfer to Kandy via Dambulla, Temple of the Sacred Tooth & Cultural Show Kandy
Day 5 Transfer to Ella, Visit Lipton's Seat & Tea Estate Ella
Day 6 Free Day in Ella Ella
Day 7 Transfer to Unawatuna via Galle Dutch Fort  Unawatuna
Day 8 Transfer to Colombo, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Negombo

Colorful boats along Negombo's canals

Ayubowan and welcome to Sri Lanka! Upon arrival at the Colombo Airport, you'll be met by a representative and transferred to your hotel in the laid-back beach town of Negombo. Known as "Little Rome" for its strong Catholic influence, Negombo transitioned over the centuries through Dutch, Portuguese, and British colonial rule. Today its sandy beaches, welcoming locals, meandering canals, and colorful streets make it the perfect spot to enjoy your first evening in Sri Lanka.

Day 2: Transfer to Sigiriya, Visit Sigiriya Rock Fortress

The iconic rock fortress of Sigirya rises 1,124 feet (349 m) out of the jungle
The iconic rock fortress of Sigirya rises 1,124 feet (349 m) out of the jungle

Your driver will pick you up at the hotel today and take you northeast toward Sigiriya, located in the Central Province. Known by locals as the "eighth wonder of the world," this iconic monument holds important cultural significance to Sri Lankans. The rocky monolith rises high out of the lush jungle and is home to the remains of an ancient fortress built in the late fifth century.

Take your time and admire the beautiful water fountains, boulder gardens, frescos, mirror walls, and relics of the castle as you explore the UNESCO-listed site. The name translates to "Lion Rock," a reference to the way visitors traditionally began their final ascent, passing through the open jaws and throat of a lion. Today only the gigantic paws sculpted into the rock remain. 

Day 3: Explore Pidurangala, Rural Village Trail in Habarana 

Cycle through the rural farmland and small villages near Habarana

Located next to the more famous Sigiriya, the magnificent rock temple of Pidurangala dates back to the 3rd century BCE and was the site of an ancient monastery. Once home to over 500 monks, this morning, you'll visit the vast reclining Buddha statue within and climb to the top for breathtaking views of the surrounding valley and nearby Sigiriya Rock.

Get out into the countryside next on a guided cycling tour through the rice paddies and back roads around Habarana. You'll have the chance to interact with local farmers and learn about Sri Lankan rural life before pedaling to a quiet lake, where you can enjoy a scenic boat trip out onto the water. Afterward, cycle around the lake, keeping your eyes open for exotic birds. Break for a cup of tea or a fresh coconut along the journey, then sit down for a lunch of curry and rice with a local family inside a mud hut.  

Day 4: Transfer to Kandy via Dambulla, Temple of the Sacred Tooth & Cultural Show

Views across the serene Lake Kandy to the Royal Palace

Your driver will pick you up today for the journey south to Kandy, which serves as a welcoming gateway to Sri Lanka's Hill Country. Along the way, stop to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Dambulla. This sacred cave temple complex dates to the first century BCE and is home to some of the country's finest religious artifacts. Wander through caves to marvel at gilded interiors, dramatic murals, and an incredible collection of holy statues, including a 47-foot (14 m) reclining golden Buddha. Then climb to the temple's rocky clifftops for views across the surrounding forests and countryside.

Continue to Kandy and get settled in, then spend the afternoon touring Kandy's historical Royal Palace on the edge of Lake Kandy. Stroll through the palace's shrines, temples, and gardens before visiting its crown jewel: Sri Dalada Maligawa (the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic). The intricate temple complex was built in the 16th century and is home to Sri Lanka's most important Buddhist relic: a tooth from the Buddha. As evening falls, you'll attend a fascinating cultural show to see some great examples of traditional Sri Lankan music and dance.

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Day 5: Transfer to Ella, Visit Lipton's Seat & Tea Estate

Views over the clouds at Lipton's Seat
A scenic transfer this morning whisks you deep into the heart of Sri Lanka's tea country, where you'll get settled in the charming mountain village of Ella. Along the way, stop at Lipton's Seat, one of Sri Lanka's most impressive viewpoints. The Scottish tea baron Sir Thomas Lipton used to survey his burgeoning empire from this lofty spot, and today you can enjoy similar views looking out across emerald hills and tea fields. Learn more about the country's most famous export at the surrounding tea estate, where you'll tour the fields and factory and finish off the visit with a cup of Ceylon tea.

Day 6: Free Day in Ella

Views across the lush mountains and tea fields of Ella
The lush mountains and tea fields of Ella
Today is free to explore Ella at your leisure, with your private driver available for any transfers. This idyllic mountain town is the perfect base for relaxing, with lots of fantastic walks that lead through tea fields to temples and waterfalls. If you're feeling adventurous, take a scenic trek to Ravana Ella Falls for a quick dip in the cool waters, or climb past railway tracks and tea plantations to reach Ella's Rock for breathtaking views across the countryside.

Day 7: Transfer to Unawatuna via Galle Dutch Fort 

Tour the incredible fortified city of Galle
Tour the historic fortified Dutch fort of Galle 

It's time to head to the beach! This morning your driver will pick you up at your hotel and transfer you south to the popular coastal town of Unawatuna. Stop en route at the UNESCO-listed city of Galle, where you can explore 300-year-old Dutch fortifications surrounded on three sides by the Indian Ocean. After a tour of the city's historical past, you'll have time to browse its Dutch-colonial buildings, historic mosques, grand mansions, and museums. Wander the streets and discover stylish cafés, shops, and boutique hotels owned by local and ex-pat artists and designers.

The rest of the day is free for you to unwind on the white sand beaches of Unawatuna. Sheltered by an offshore coral reef, the turquoise waters here are warm and tranquil, making them perfect for swimming and watersports. For a more active afternoon, hike the nearby Japanese Peace Pagoda for sweeping views over the coast, visit a local sea turtle farm and hatchery, or join a whale and dolphin watching boat trip. As evening falls, head to one of the many local restaurants serving mouthwatering Sri Lankan cuisine and watch a colorful sunset over the Indian Ocean.

Day 8: Transfer to Colombo, Depart

Spend a final morning at the beach before your departure
Enjoy a leisurely final morning on the beaches of Unawatuna. When the time comes, your driver will pick you up at the hotel and take you to the airport and your departing flight. Safe travels!

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